1. bookVolume 11 (2017): Issue 1 (June 2017)
Journal Details
First Published
16 Apr 2016
Publication timeframe
2 times per year
access type Open Access

The Postpartum Tradition of Sawa Mahina in Rural Punjab, Pakistan

Published Online: 13 Jul 2017
Volume & Issue: Volume 11 (2017) - Issue 1 (June 2017)
Page range: 127 - 150
Journal Details
First Published
16 Apr 2016
Publication timeframe
2 times per year

The Punjabi postpartum tradition is called sawa mahina (‘five weeks’). This study investigates infant health care belief practices in rural Punjab and looks at the social significance of infant care beliefs practiced during sawa mahina. During six months of fieldwork, using participant observation and unstructured interviews as primary research methods, the study explored the prevalent postpartum tradition from a childcare perspective. A Punjabi child holds a social value regarding familial, religious, and emotional values. The five-week traditional postpartum period provides an insight into mother-child attachment, related child care belief practices, and the social construction of infancy. A child’s agency is recognised in the embodied mother-child relationship, and a child is seen in a sympathetic connection with the mother. Establishing an early foundation of ascribed identities is another important part of postpartum belief practices.


Abdul-Rahman, Muhammad Saed. 2007. Islam: Questions and Answers - Manners 2. London: MSA Publication Limited.Search in Google Scholar

Abel, Sally; Julie Park, David Tipene-Leach, Sitaleki Finau and Michele Lennan. 2001. Infant Care Practices in New Zealand: A Cross-Cultural Qualitative Study. - Social Science & Medicine 53 (9): 1135-1148. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0277-9536(00)00408-1.10.1016/S0277-9536(00)00408-1Search in Google Scholar

Abu-Sahlieh, Sami A. Aldeeb 1999. Muslims’ Genitalia in the Hands of the Clergy: Religious Arguments about Male and Female Circumcision. - Male and Female Circumcision: Medical, Legal, and Ethical Considerations in Paediatric Practice, edited by George C. Denniston, Frederick Mansfield Hodges and Marilyn Fayre Milos. New York, NY: Kluwer Academic; Plenum Publishers, 131-171.Search in Google Scholar

Agar, Michael H. 1981. The Professional Stranger: An Informal Ethnography. New York, NY: Academic Press.Search in Google Scholar

Ahmed, Akbar S. 1997. Jinnah, Pakistan and Islamic Identity: The Search for Saladin. New York, NY: Routledge.Search in Google Scholar

Alderson, Priscilla. 2008 [2000]. Young Children’s Rights: Exploring Beliefs, Principles and Practice. 2nd edn. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.Search in Google Scholar

Ali, Sumera; Raafay Sophie, Ayesha M. Imam, Faisal I. Khan, Syed F. Ali, Annum Shaikh and Syed Farid-ul-Hasnain. 2011. Knowledge, Perceptions and Myths Regarding Infertility among Selected Adult Population in Pakistan: A Cross-Sectional Study. - BioMed Central Public Health 11 (760). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3206477/ (accessed April 28, 2017).Search in Google Scholar

Allat, Pat. 1996. Conceptualizing Parenting from the Standpoint of Children: Relationship and Transition in the Life Course. - Children in Families: Research and Policy, edited by Julia Brannen and Margaret O’Brien. London: Falmer Press, 130-144.Search in Google Scholar

Al-Mundhiri, Al-Hafiz Zakiuddin Abdul-Azim. 2000. The Translation of the Meanings of Summarized Sahih Muslim 1. Riyadh: Darussalam.Search in Google Scholar

Arnold, Fred; Rodolfo A. Bulatao, Chalio Buripakdi, Betti Jamie Chung, James T. Fawcett, Toshio Iritani, S. J. Lee and Tson- Shien Wu. 1975. The Value of Children: A Cross-national Study. Honolulu, HI: East-West Center.Search in Google Scholar

Babbie, Earl R. 2008. The Basics of Social Research. Belmont, CA: Thomas Learning.Search in Google Scholar

Bayly, Susan. 2001 [1999]. Caste, Society and Politics in India from the Eighteenth Century to the Modern Age. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Beit-Hallahmi, Benjamin and Michael Argyle. 1997. The Psychology of Religious Behaviour, Belief and Experience. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis.Search in Google Scholar

Bernard, Harvey Russell. 2006. Research Methods in Anthropology: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. Oxford: Rowman Altamira.Search in Google Scholar

Bhattacharya, A.; R. Dwivedy, S. Nandeshwar, A. de Costa and V. K. Diwan. 2008. ‘To Weigh or not to Weigh?’ Socio-Cultural Practices Affecting Weighing at Birth in Vidisha, India. - Journal of Neonatal Nursing 14 (6): 199-206. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jnn.2008. in Google Scholar

Bhatti, Lubna Ishaq; Fariyal F. Fikree and Amanullah Khan. 1999. The Quest of Infertile Women in Squatter Settlements of Karachi, Pakistan: A Qualitative Study. - Social Science & Medicine 49 (5): 637-649. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0277-9536(99)00142-2.10.1016/S0277-9536(99)00142-2Search in Google Scholar

Bina, Rena. 2008. The Impact of Cultural Factors upon Postpartum Depression: A Literature Review. - Health Care for Women International 29 (6): 568-592. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/07399330802089149.10.1080/07399330802089149Search in Google Scholar

Bühler, Christoph. 2008. On the Structural Value of Children and its Implication on Intended Fertility in Bulgaria. - Demographic Research 18: 569-610. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4054/Dem-Res.2008.18.20.Search in Google Scholar

Chigondo, Etiya Edith. 2014. A Study to Assess the Acceptance of Male Circumcision as a Preventive Method in Hiv and Aids, in Mbare and Southern Suburbs of Harare, Zimbabwe. - Research Journal of Social Sciences and Management 4 (1): 123-130.Search in Google Scholar

Creswell, John W. 2003 [1994]. Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Method Approaches. 2nd edn. Thousand Oaks, CA; London, New Delhi: Sage Publications.Search in Google Scholar

Denzin, Norman K. and Yvonna S. Lincoln, eds. 2011 [1994]. The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research. 4th revised edn. Thousand Oaks, CA; London, New Delhi: Sage Publications.Search in Google Scholar

Dessing, Nathal M. 2001. Rituals of Birth, Circumcision, Marriage, and Death among Muslims in the Netherlands. New Religious Identities in the Western World 2. Belgium: Peeters Publishers.Search in Google Scholar

Elo, Satu and Helvi Kyngäs. 2008. The Qualitative Content Analysis Process. - Journal of Advanced Nursing 62 (1): 107-115. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2648.2007.04569.x.10.1111/j.1365-2648.2007.04569.xSearch in Google Scholar

Frazer, James George. 1925 [1890]. The Golden Bough. A Study in Magic and Religion. New York, NY: The Macmillan Company.Search in Google Scholar

Graneheim, Ulla H. and Berit Lundman. 2004. Qualitative Content Analysis in Nursing Research: Concepts, Procedures and Measures to Achieve Trustworthiness. - Nurse Education Today 24 (2): 105-112. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nedt.2003. in Google Scholar

Gregg, Gary S. 2007. Culture and Identity in a Muslim Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Griffith, Laura B. 2009. Practitioners, Postnatal Depression, and Translation: An Investigation into the Representation of Bangladeshi Mothers in the East End. - Anthropology & Medicine 16 (3): 267-278. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13648470903246847.10.1080/13648470903246847Search in Google Scholar

Gullestad, Marianne. 1992. The Art of Social Relations: Essays on Culture, Social Action and Everyday Life in Modern Norway. Oslo: Scandinavian University Press.Search in Google Scholar

Hammersley, Martyn and Paul Atkinson. 1995. Ethnography: Principles in Practice. London: Routledge.Search in Google Scholar

Harkness, Sara. 1987. The Cultural Mediation of Postpartum Depression. - Medical Anthropology Quarterly 1 (2): 194-209. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/maq.1987.1.2.02a00040.10.1525/maq.1987.1.2.02a00040Search in Google Scholar

Heh, Shu-Shya; Lindsey Coombes and Helen Bartlett. 2004. The Association Between Depressive Symptoms and Social Support in Taiwanese Women During the Month. - International Journal of Nursing Studies 41 (5): 573-579. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2004. in Google Scholar

Hoffman, Lois Wladis and Martin L. Hoffman. 1973. The Value of Children to Parents. -Psychological Perspective on Population, edited by James T. Fawcett. New York, NY: Basic Books, 19-76.Search in Google Scholar

Holroyd, Eleanor; Fung Kim Lai Katie, Lam Siu Chun and Sin Wai Ha. 1997. “Doing the month”: An Exploration of Postpartum Practices in Chinese Women. - Health Care for Women International 18 (3): 301-313. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/07399339709516282.10.1080/07399339709516282Search in Google Scholar

Hussain, Rabia; Zubair Ahmed and Pari Bano. 2014. Ethnographical Study of Postpartum Practices and Rituals in Altit Hunza. - Journal of Social Sciences 1 (12): 464-469.Search in Google Scholar

Jaffrelot, Cristophe and Gillian Beaumont. 2004. A History of Pakistan and Its Origins. London: Anthem Press.Search in Google Scholar

Jamaludin, Shariffah Suraya Syed. 2014. Postpartum Food Restriction of Rural Malay Women. - Asian Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences 2 (4): 32-41.Search in Google Scholar

Jeffery, Roger and Patricia M. Jeffery. 1993. Traditional Birth Attendants in Rural North India: The Social Organization of Childbearing. - Midwifery and the Medicalization of Childbirth: Comparative Perspectives, edited by Edwin van Teijlingen, George Lowis, Peter McCaffery and Maureen Porter. New York, NY: Nova Science Publishers, 265-278.Search in Google Scholar

Kamra, Sukeshi. 2002. Bearing Witness: Partition, Independence, End of the Raj. Calgary: University of Calgary Press.10.2307/j.ctv6gqsnsSearch in Google Scholar

Keenan, Julia and Helen Stapleton. 2009. It Depends What You Mean by Feeding “on Demand”: Mothers’ Accounts of Babies’ Agency in Infant-Feeding Relationships. - Children, Food and Identity in Everyday Life, edited by Allison James, Anne-Trine Kjorholt and Vebjorg Tingstad. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 13-34.Search in Google Scholar

Keller, Heidi. 2013. Cultures of Infancy. New Jersey, NJ: Psychology Press.10.4324/9780203936771Search in Google Scholar

Khan, M. M. 1994. Summarized Sahih Al Bukhari. Riyadh: Darussalam.Search in Google Scholar

Klein, Michele. 2000. A Time to Be Born: Customs and Folklore of Jewish Birth. Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society.Search in Google Scholar

Laderman, Carol. 1984. Food Ideology and Eating Behaviour: Contributions from Malay Studies. - Social Science & Medicine 19 (5): 547-559. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/0277-9536(84)90050-9.10.1016/0277-9536(84)90050-9Search in Google Scholar

Lee, Dominic Tak-Shing. 2000. Postnatal Depression in Hong Kong Chinese. A Doctoral dissertation. Chinese University of Hong Kong.Search in Google Scholar

Letherby, Gayle. 1999. Other than Mother and Mothers as Others: The Experience of Motherhood and Non-Motherhood in Relation to ‘Infertility’ and ‘Involuntary Childlessness’. - Women’s Studies International Forum 22 (3): 359-372. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0277-5395(99)00028-X.10.1016/S0277-5395(99)00028-XSearch in Google Scholar

Liamputtong, Pranee. 2007. Situating Reproduction, Procreation and Motherhood within a Cross-Cultural Context: An Introduction. - Reproduction, Childbearing and Motherhood: A Cross- Cultural Perspective, edited by Pranee Liamputtong. New York, NY: Nova Science Pub, 3-34.Search in Google Scholar

Liu, Yan Qan; Marcia Petrini and Judith A. Maloni. 2015. “Doing the Month”: Postpartum Practices in Chinese Women. - Nursing & Health Sciences 17 (1): 5-14. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/nhs.12146.10.1111/nhs.12146Search in Google Scholar

Longhurst, Robyn. 2005. Maternities: Gender, Bodies and Space. London: Routledge.Search in Google Scholar

Lupton, Deborah. 2013. Infant Embodiment and Inter-Embodiment: A Review of Sociocultural Perspectives. - Childhood 20 (1): 37-50. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0907568212447244.10.1177/0907568212447244Search in Google Scholar

Mason, Jennifer. 2002. Qualitative Researching. London: Sage Publication.Search in Google Scholar

Mathews, Paul W. 1986. The Social and Economic Value of Children in Philippine Society. - Philippine Sociological Review 34: 37-55.Search in Google Scholar

Miller, Laura J. 2002. Postpartum depression. - Journal of the American Medical Association 287 (6): 762-765. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.287.6.762.10.1001/jama.287.6.762Search in Google Scholar

Murchison, Julian. 2010. Ethnography Essentials: Designing, Conducting, and Presenting Your Research. San Francisco, CA: Wiley, John & Sons.Search in Google Scholar

Nag, Moni; Benjamin N. F. White, R. Creighton Peet, Amita Bardhan, Terrence H. Hull, Allen Johnson, George S. Masnick, Steven Polgar, Robert Repetto and Sol Tax. 1978. An Anthropological Approach to the Study of the Economic Value of Children in Java and Nepal [and Comments and Reply]. - Current Anthropology 19 (2): 293-306. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/202076.10.1086/202076Search in Google Scholar

Nahas, Violeta and Nawal Amasheh. 1999. Culture Care Meanings and Experiences of Postpartum Depression among Jordanian Australian Women: A Transcultural Study. - Journal of Transcultural Nursing 10 (1): 37-45. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/104365969901000113.10.1177/104365969901000113Search in Google Scholar

Nauck, Bernhard. 2014. Value of Children and the Social Production of Welfare. - Demographic Research 30: 1793-1816. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4054/DemRes.2014. in Google Scholar

Nielsen, Melanie; Anneke Hoogvorst, Flemming Konradsen, Muhammed Mudasser and Wim Van Der Hoek. 2001. Childhood Diarrhea and Hygiene: Mothers’ Perceptions and Practices in the Punjab, Pakistan (25). Colombo: International Water Management Institute.Search in Google Scholar

Oakley, Ann. 1979. Becoming a Mother. Oxford: Martin Robertson.Search in Google Scholar

Oppenheim-Mason, Karen and Anja Malhotra Taj. 1987. Differences between Women’s and Men’s Reproductive Goals in Developing Countries. - Population and Development Review 13 (4): 611-638. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/1973025.10.2307/1973025Search in Google Scholar

Qadir, Farah; Amna Khalid and Girmay Medhin. 2015. Social Support, Marital Adjustment, and Psychological Distress among Women with Primary Infertility in Pakistan. - Women & Health 55 (4): 432-446. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/03630242.2015.1022687.10.1080/03630242.2015.1022687Search in Google Scholar

Qamar, Azher Hameed. 2012. Gendered Aspects of Informal Education in Childhood: Research Reflections from the Rural Punjab, Pakistan. - Academic Research International 2 (1): 383-397.Search in Google Scholar

Qamar, Azher Hameed. 2013. Evil, Evil Eye and Islamic Faith-Healing Traditions. - The Journal of Islamic Thought and Civilization 3 (2): 44-53.10.32350/jitc.32.06Search in Google Scholar

Qamar, Azher Hameed. 2015a. Being a Child in Rural Pakistan. - The Delhi University Journal of the Humanities and the Social Sciences 2: 100-111.Search in Google Scholar

Qamar, Azher Hameed. 2015b. Tona, the Folk Healing Practices in Rural Punjab, Pakistan. - Journal of Ethnology and Folkloristics 9 (2): 59-74.Search in Google Scholar

Qamar, Azher Hameed. 2016. Belief in the Evil Eye and Early Childcare in Rural Punjab, Pakistan. - Asian Ethnology 75 (2): 397-418.Search in Google Scholar

Qamar, Azher Hameed. Forthcoming. Social Value of the Child and Fear of Childlessness among Rural Punjabi Women in Pakistan.Search in Google Scholar

Ribbens, Jane. 1994. Mothers and Their Children: A Feminist Sociology of Childrearing. London: Sage Publications.Search in Google Scholar

Rice, Pranee Liamputtong. 2000. Nyo dua hli - 30 Days Confinement: Traditions and Changed Childbearing Beliefs and Practices among Hmong Women in Australia. - Midwifery 16 (1): 22-34. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1054/midw.1999.0180.10.1054/midw.1999.0180Search in Google Scholar

Rizvi, S. A. H.; S. A. A. Naqvi, M. Hussain and A. S. Hasan. 1999. Religious Circumcision: A Muslim view. - BJU international 83 (S1): 13-16. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1464-410x.1999.0830s1013.x.10.1046/j.1464-410x.1999.0830s1013.xSearch in Google Scholar

Saavala, Minna. 2013 [2001]. Fertility and Familial Power Relations: Procreation in South India. Nais Monograph Series 87. London: Routledge.10.4324/9781315028958Search in Google Scholar

Sandelowski, Margarete; Diane Holditch‐Davis and Betty G. Harris. 1990. Living the Life: Explanations of Infertility. - Sociology of Health & Illness 12 (2): 195-215. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9566.ep11376477.10.1111/1467-9566.ep11376477Search in Google Scholar

Saura, Bruno; Maryann Capestro and Henri Bova. 2002. Continuity of Bodies: The Infant’s Placenta and the Island’s Navel in Eastern Polynesia. - The Journal of the Polynesian Society 111 (2): 127-145.Search in Google Scholar

Schreier, Margrit. 2012. Qualitative Content Analysis in Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Search in Google Scholar

Sharma, Sheetal; Edwin van Teijlingen, Vanora Hundley, Catherine Angell and Padam Simkhada. 2016. Dirty and 40 Days in the Wilderness: Eliciting Childbirth and Postnatal Cultural Practices and Beliefs in Nepal. - BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 16 (1): 147. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-016-0938-4.10.1186/s12884-016-0938-4Search in Google Scholar

Smart, Carol. 1996. Deconstructing Motherhood. - Good Enough Mothering?: Feminist Perspectives on Lone Motherhood, edited by Elizabeth Bortolaia Silva. London: Routledge, 37-57.Search in Google Scholar

Soet, Johanna. E.; Gregory A. Brack and Colleen DiIorio. 2003. Prevalence and Predictors of Women’s Experience of Psychological Trauma during Childbirth. - Birth 30 (1): 36-46. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1523-536X.2003.00215.x.10.1046/j.1523-536X.2003.00215.xSearch in Google Scholar

Stewart, Stephanie and Jaya Jambunathan. 1996. Hmong Women and Postpartum Depression. - Health Care for Women International 17: 319-330. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/07399339609516248.10.1080/07399339609516248Search in Google Scholar

Sultan, Sarwat. 2009. Depression: A Common Factor Associated with Childlessness. - Pakistan Journal of Social Sciences 29 (1): 79-90.Search in Google Scholar

Tahhan, Diana Adis. 2008. Depth and Space in Sleep: Intimacy, Touch and the Body in Japanese Co- Sleeping Rituals. - Body and Society 14 (4): 37-56. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1357034X08096894.10.1177/1357034X08096894Search in Google Scholar

The Noble Quran - English Translation of the meanings and commentary. 1985. Translated by Muhammad Taqqiuddin Al-Hilali and Muhammad Mushin Khan. Madinah, KSA: King Fahd Complex.Search in Google Scholar

Tylor, Edward Burnett 1974 [1871]. Primitive Culture. Researches into the Development of Mythology, Philosophy, Religion, Art and Custom. New York, NY: Gordon Press.Search in Google Scholar

Upton, Rebecca L. and Sallie S. Han. 2003. Maternity and Its Discontents: “Getting The Body Back” After Pregnancy. - Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 32 (6): 670-692. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0891241603257596.10.1177/0891241603257596Search in Google Scholar

Vlassoff, Michael and Carol Vlassoff. 1980. Old Age Security and the Utility of Children in Rural India. - Population Studies 34 (3): 487-499. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00324728.1980.10410457.10.1080/00324728.1980.10410457Search in Google Scholar

Whiteford, Linda M. and Lois Gonzalez. 1995. Stigma: The Hidden Burden of Infertility. - Social Science & Medicine 40 (1): 27-36. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/0277-9536(94)00124-C.10.1016/0277-9536(94)00124-CSearch in Google Scholar

Whittaker, Andrea. 1999. Birth and the Postpartum in Northeast Thailand: Contesting Modernity and Tradition. - Medical Anthropology 18 (3): 215-242. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/01459740.1999.9966156.10.1080/01459740.1999.9966156Search in Google Scholar

Winch, Peter. J.; M. Ashraful Alam, Afsana Akther, Dilara Afroz, Nabeel Ashraf Ali, Amy A. Ellis, Abdullah H. Baqui, Gary L. Darmstadt, Shams El Arifeen and M. Habibur Rahman Seraji. 2005. Local Understandings of Vulnerability and Protection during the Neonatal Period in Sylhet District, Bangladesh: A Qualitative Study. - The Lancet 366 (9484): 478-485. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(05)66836-5.10.1016/S0140-6736(05)66836-5Search in Google Scholar

World Health Organization. 2014. WHO Recommendations on Postnatal Care of the Mother and New-born.Search in Google Scholar

World Health Organization. http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/97603/1/9789241506649_eng.pdf (accessed May 26, 2017).Search in Google Scholar

Wynne, Francine. 1997. The Embodied Chiasmic Relationship of Mother and Infant. - Human Studies 19: 253-270. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1005380703076.10.1023/A:1005380703076Search in Google Scholar

Yeh, Yueh-Chen; Winsome St. John and Lorraine Venturato. 2014. Doing the Month in a Taiwanese Postpartum Nursing Center: An Ethnographic Study. - Nursing & Health Sciences 16 (3): 343-351. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/nhs.12110.10.1111/nhs.12110Search in Google Scholar

Recommended articles from Trend MD

Plan your remote conference with Sciendo